Writing That Killer Screenplay

Many aspiring writers mistakenly believe that research exclusively involves watching movies rather than reading scripts. Both are vital to experience the visual storytelling process, but both are different experiences. Only reading scripts will make you a better writer. Read both good and bad scripts as each has value in your learning process.

The few pages (usually around ten) can allow the reader to determine whether you can write. The second act, where most scripts collapse, will alert readers whether you can write well.

Agents, managers and producers are always looking for fresh voices. Voice is more than dialogue, character and premise. It’s more about authenticity and how you breathe life into a cinematic experience. It’s an insight into yourself and your perception of humanity. Therefore it makes sense for your breakout script to be based on your life experience. Write stories you are passionate about.

The most gripping screenplays from new writers are the ones with an emotional reaction. How do the characters interact? How do they speak when they speak? Do they mean what they say?

Once a new writer has hooked a reader emotionally, the next step is commerciality. How can your script be exploited and eventually filmed? A key issue I hear from industry professionals about new writers is that the writing is great, but they can’t place a particular script with a buyer. Think about how your small movie can give pleasure and entertainment to even more people. It’s not selling out, but rather thinking strategically. Don’t write something based on previous box office successes because you will surely fail.

Consider all the films that did well at the box office and the themes they explore. “Breaking Dawn”, the box office darling, is ultimately about love that can never flourish. What’s your take on love that can never be?

Think about your ten most favorite films you thought you could write. What are the collective themes, genres and characters? These answers will help develop your brand as a writer. Balance your passion with the marketplace. Again, this isn’t selling out, but rather meeting the market.

What do you want to achieve with a particular script? Is a quick sale for theatrical release or a ten year slog to produce an academy award winner. Both are valid approaches, but you need to know where you stand and the realities of the marketplace.

Who are you audience? Don’t say general. Be aware that the 14-24 year old male demographic is still the most significant buyer of cinema tickets.

Check out the black list each year. Determine what stories were talked about, but never ultimately got produced. It wasn’t because they weren’t good, but perhaps because the time wasn’t right.

Well written scripts have a habit of being talked about in the marketplace. Even if they aren’t going to be produced at the time, industry folk always get chatting when the WOW factor strikes.


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